PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- In just a matter of days, the area's newest highway will finally open.
The Southern Beltway is the first major road built in the region since the Parkway North opened in 1989.
"It's been a fun ride. A quite challenging project," Steve Hrvoich said.
That ride is about to take a major turn. Hrvoich, who is with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, gave KDKA's Amy Wadas an exclusive tour of the Southern Beltway, also known as Toll I-576.
The beltway is 19 miles long, from Interstate 79 at the Allegheny and Washington counties line to Pittsburgh International Airport.
There are a total of nine exits. The road also links to the Findlay Connector, which opened in 2006 and is now part of the Southern Beltway.
"It will be a huge time saving to be able to come this way. We think it will be about a 15-minute ride rather than a half-hour drive on normal conditions and possibly 45 minutes during rush hour," Hrvoich said.
The Southern Beltway will be an entirely open road tolling system, meaning you won't have to stop to pay a toll.
"There will be three toll points on the Southern Beltway. And each toll point will charge drivers $1.30 under each toll point if you have E-ZPass and then $2.60 if you use toll by plate," said Renee Vid Colborn with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Turnpike officials say, all told, this project is going to end up costing about $800 million, with funding coming from the Highway and Transportation Funding Act. A big price tag for sure, but one that officials say has a lot of benefits.
"The Pittsburgh Area Chamber of Commerce, they have been waiting for this corridor to open. The Southern Beltway is going to bring them many opportunities for businesses to develop throughout the area," Vid Colborn said.
While the main part of the beltway will open next week, crews still have a few finishing touches to do near I-79 before the entire project is completed by next summer.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is hosting a free community day on Saturday on the Southern Beltway. The public will get to walk or bike on a stretch of highway.
The beltway officially opens to drivers on Oct. 15.
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